First reading of the 2023-24 budget of $106,241,564 was approved by the School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) Board of Education at its meeting on Tuesday, May 16 at the District Education Support Centre (DESC).
One of the primary responsibilities of an elected school board is to pass, by bylaw, a balanced annual budget for each school year on or before June 30 of the year prior.
At the meeting Secretary-Treasurer Dale Culler explained key aspects of the budget. Along with the financial information Culler had a slide presentation which walked through the budget process including the timeline, where the district receives its funding and how it is allocated, budget risks, and what makes up a sustainable, robust budget. (slide below shows information on how Inclusive Education funding is allocated).
“For the last couple of years appropriated surplus was used to balance the operating budget. We had to take a really hard look with many heartfelt sessions to develop a sustainable budget. We had to look at what we want to support (aligned to the strategic plan) and where we could find efficiencies.”
Culler said he is not proposing the use of any of the estimated $200,000 in accumulated surplus to supplement the budget, and is looking to rebuild the amount in the accumulated surplus in small incremental steps, until it reaches where it should be by Board policy. “By policy we should have around two per cent of the Board’s actual operating costs in accumulated surplus, which is approximately $1.75 million. We want to rebuild that reserve.”
“We also are taking the opportunity to look at ways to attract some additional students and build on the International program.” He noted the returns on the district’s investments were strong last year so that has helped as well.
Areas of concern in the budget were higher costs than expected last year in the areas of substitute costs (due to sick leaves and absences) and utility costs. “We had to take a look at that and reflect what they really are.”
He noted the overall impact of all the funding changes, including new Ministry grants, will result in an expected increase of $6,072,343 to the 2023-24 budget over last year’s. This increase is largely due to the labour settlement increases, which required $4,865,841 of increased funding.
Based on the operating grant block funding announced on March 15, along with SD83’s projected increase in student enrolment of 120.765 full time equivalency (FTE), changes for the 2023-24 school year are as follows:
Culler brought attention to two graphs in the presentation which outlined staffing impacts and service and supply impacts in order to meet a balanced budget.
He noted the majority of the budget is the operating fund but there is also the capital fund and special purpose funds. The capital project funding includes the ongoing work to replace Pleasant Valley Secondary gym, with minor capital projects including HVAC upgrades at Parkview and Highland Park and a playground at Armstrong Elementary School. The capital project funding from the Ministry is $2,040,424 (this does not include the gym replacement funding).
Special purpose funds are funds which are given to the District for a specific purpose for a specific period of time, for example the recent Ministry announcement for the Feeding Futures grant to all school districts. SD83 will receive $902,357 for this healthy foods for school program. Other programs funded in this budget include the Classroom Enhancement Fund, Federal French Grant, StrongStart, Strengthening Early Years to Kindergarten Transition (currently running at Sorrento), the Just B4 program (new program at Highland Park with soft start in June and full program in September), the Annual Facilities Grant and more. This budget is $10,966,919.
With the budget receiving first reading at the meeting it will now move to the June meeting for possible second reading and third and final. Culler noted as work continues there may be refinements when it is presented in June.
Strategic Plan update
Superintendent Donna Kriger reported the Strategic Planning Committee has selected draft values, which include well-being, empathy, respect, belonging, perseverance, relationship, equity, stewardship, and safety. She added draft value statements will be established at its next meeting on May 23 and then they will come to the Board for approval or request for revisions. “In all likelihood we will be trimming down a couple. We don’t want it to be onerous. We want it to be automatic so everyone knows that list. That will become part of the way we do business from this point forward.”
Culture of Health and Wellness
Kriger noted the school food program, Feeding Futures, is also progressing. On May 15 there was a meeting with Serena Caner of the Shuswap Food Action Society to explore the possibility of a universal breakfast program and a universal lunch/soup program (frequency dependent on school supports available). She added that the district has many amazing and generous clubs and people out there who are happy to help fund food for children, however, the staffing piece is often tricky and the grant will help with this.
She also reported weekly meetings are taking place with Interior Health, Ministry of Child and Family Development, Child and Youth Mental Health to help establish the Integrated Child and Youth Team (ICY). She also noted next steps including advertising for a registered clinical counsellor and youth support worker, securing space for the ICY teams to utilize within the district, connecting with independent schools and First Nations schools to share the progress. Districts involved in the original pilot project commented it takes 18 to 24 months to get the program completely up and running. She added the schematic (seen below) shows there are six phases to getting the team established and they are currently in phase two. She is hopeful by phase four, even though the entire team might not yet be established, they can start referring students for support.
Belonging and connectedness interviews are taking place with middle and secondary school students. This has been prompted by the work (found in the book Street Data) of Shane Safir which raised an increased awareness around student voice and listening to the voices at the margins. “We are allowing students to be the ‘truthtellers’ and moral compass for what we say about equity,” added Kriger. She noted that a “listening tour” is taking place to gain insight into the sense of belonging and connectedness students in the school district experience. She commented that having a sense of belonging and connection is impactful on mental wellness and school completion. She said what they are hearing so far is that relationships with teachers are important, facility conditions matter including general cleanliness and upkeep of washrooms, and that racist and homophobic slurs are still prevalent in schools. She noted washrooms have been mentioned as a safety concern particularly around vaping, and that learning driven by student interest, voice, and choice is important.
She commented on a recent ThoughtExchange survey to seek feedback on the budget question of: What programs or resources should be prioritized for a sustainable delivery of quality education for our students? There were 379 participants with 306 thoughts, and 11,765 thoughts rated. The majority of the participants were parents (68 per cent). The overarching themes included (rated highest) early intervention, literacy support, CEA support, reading programs, support, support staff, foundation, mental health, social emotional skills, learning, math, programs, music and education. “The highest rated thoughts were wanting to support K-3 learners and those classrooms, in particular with literacy support.”
The Little Mountain Stomp had over 1,100 participants. Many thanks to SD83 staff, past and present, for organizing this amazing event, commented Kriger. “It is great to see people rallying around these little kiddos and giving them this opportunity.”
She also congratulated the A.L. Fortune senior Drumline for repeating as champions at the provincials in Abbotsford on May 5. The school’s junior Drumline finished third in that same event! Still with music, she noted over 450 band and choir students took part in the Shuswap Music Festival from April 11 to 29! “Thank you to our music teachers and the terrific work they do.”
Coming up, Kriger mentioned kindergarten orientation sessions are now planned for each of SD83’s elementary schools. The dates of these fun and informative sessions are on the school district’s website. Also, she offered her well wishes and congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2023. “I want to formally wish all of the grads well and hope they have amazing, memorable, and safe graduation celebrations. “She also thanked staff for all the work that goes into the ceremonies and ‘bringing these young adults across the stage’.”
Kriger wrapped up her report mentioning the Fashion for Famine event at Salmon Arm Secondary with all profits going to support the SAFE Society Food Fund and the Community Foundation’s Youth Fund. Also, that 16 students from Jackson and Eagle River had the opportunity to tour and learn more about Canoe Forest Products. The tour highlighted the different careers that take place inside and outside that facility. “There is a lot of excellent things going on around our district.”
Off to France
Salmon Arm Secondary School received approval in principle for a trip to France for March 2024. Teacher Martine Dollack is organizing a trip for Grade 12 French Immersion students to tour France! The trip, organized through EF Educational Tours includes a walking tour of Paris, visiting cultural sites including Eiffel Tower, the Basillica, and Arc de Triomphe, a Seine River Cruise, the Loire Valley, St. Malo, Versailles and more! The cost will be $4,483. Dollack gave the Board an overview of the trip, commenting it is very exciting and will be very immersive with activities such as a scavenger hunt, and an art lesson, along with the opportunity to learn more about the history of the France and the French language. When the Board approved the request, Trustee Corryn Grayston commented that it was a very impressive itinerary and a fabulous opportunity. She thanked Dollack for all the work that goes into organizing an opportunity like this for students.
Off to Edmonton
Eagle River Secondary graduating students are off for a grad trip to Edmonton in June 2-6. The trip received approval in principle by the Board. The trip will be a culmination of the leadership class year end project and it will also serve as a grad class final activity. The group will be going to West Edmonton Mall and exploring Banff. Curtis Bellows is the organizer with Teacher Rory Taber and Indigenous Education Worker Tricia Jeffery also going on the trip. Principal Lyle Chapman presented the trip at the meeting mentioning that the fundraising covered the full cost of the trip for the grads. “June 2 is grad day. They’ll wrap up in the evening, students will gather their stuff and jump on the mini bus and travel to Edmonton.” Chapman was asked to please pass along the Board’s thanks to the organizers and to all those who fundraised to make this trip at no cost to the grads. Board Chair Marianne VanBuskirk mentioned the wildfire situation near Edmonton and Chapman noted that they are aware, have let the grads know, and if they have to they will pivot.
Administrative Calendar and Board Meeting Schedule
The Board adopted the 2023/24 internal administrative calendar and board meeting schedule as presented. This sets out the meeting schedule for the upcoming year noting that all Board meetings will be on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m., with three exceptions. September’s meeting will be on the last Tuesday of the month (Sept. 26), January will be on the fourth Tuesday of the month (Jan. 23), and March will be the second Tuesday of the month (March 12). The calendar also includes a legend of when Board committee meetings are planned for.
READ MEETING SCHEDULES HERE
VanBuskirk noted the Board had a good education session on May 4 and did some planning for the upcoming school year. This plan was adopted at the meeting. She also noted that the B.C. School Trustees’ Association is also asking Boards to look at a Board Code of Conduct. This will be done in conjunction with other districts and in collaboration with the Ministry next year.
READ WORKPLAN HERE
The Board set out committee assignments for the upcoming year:
Education Directions – Marianne VanBuskirk and alternate Corryn Grayston
Finance and Facilities – Amanda Krebs and alternate Brent Gennings
Policy – Brent Gennings and alternate Amanda Krebs
Labour Relations – Tennile Lachmuth and alternate Brent Gennings
Partner Group – Board Chairperson and alternate is Vice-Chairperson
Budget Advisory – Corryn Grayston and alternate Amanda Krebs
Indigenous Education Committee – Tennile Lachmuth and alternate Marianne VanBuskirk
French Advisory – Marianne VanBuskirk and alternate Amanda Krebs
Transportation – Brent Gennings and alternate Tennile Lachmuth
Active Transportation Task Force – Marianne VanBuskirk
Shuswap Community Foundation rep – Corryn Grayston
Chair VanBuskirk commented there was a great capstone presentation by student Kate Verdurmen at the meeting on May 5. Her project, which VanBuskirk described as very professional, was on establishing a free inclusive calisthenics park. Also at the meeting, Director of Instruction Jen Findlay presented on early learning resources the school district is using as well as an overview of the successful April 28 Indigenous Learning Day. Of particular note was the student panel which was described as being very impactful as the students shared the adversities they navigated while getting an education.
Finance & Facilities
Chair Amanda Krebs said at last week’s meeting the committee received an update on Pleasant Valley Secondary School’s gym, which will be going to tender next week and is on track for opening September 2024. “Which is great.” She also mentioned that the new energy manager is starting on July 1st. The majority of this position is being funded by BC Hydro and Krebs remarked the rest of the position will be funded by the district. However, she noted, the district will “definitely get our money back with the initiatives and savings we can recoup”.
Culler also updated the Board on the quarterly financials (as of March 31). He noted that in the report, people should remember that some budgets are over 10 months, some 11 and some 12, which impacts the percentages of the budgets that remain.
READ QUARTERLY FINANCIALS HERE
Partner Group Liaison
Chair VanBuskirk announced the next Partner Group Liaison meeting will be on September 28, 2023.
Committee of the Whole
Chair VanBuskirk reported there were two recent Committee of the Whole meetings with both focussing on the budget.
BC School Trustees’ Association Update
Three trustees attended the recent BCSTA AGM, Gennings, Grayston and VanBuskirk. VanBuskirk said a highlight for her was the presentation by keynote speaker Jody Wilson-Raybould with her favourite being a panel discussion with students from Abbotsford.
Grayston reported on the recent Sorrento Parent Advisory Council meting where they were working on their largest fundraiser, Sip, Sip, Hooray. Some of the funds from this will be used to have a special celebration for the Grade 5s as they move on to a new school. Also, she noted Carlin PAC is also busy preparing for its long running fundraiser, the Carlin Country Market coming up at the end of May.
VanBuskirk updated trustees on some of the activities she had attended including the Hillcrest Hustle, Earth Day celebrations, and Little Mountain Stomp. She offered her thanks to the many people who helped organize, run, and provide these great opportunities for students.
A parent raised a question about why the Teen House program (which is a Bridge alternate education program) is being closed and she was very distressed about it, saying that her child had finally found an education program that fit. Director of Instruction Carol-Ann Leidloff explained the program is not being closed but is moving from Teen House (the moniker given to the house located on Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan’s site as it used to house the education program for teens who were pregnant or had babies) to Jackson Campus. She commented that students in the program will continue with one-to-one support for academics as well as support for exploration classes and with some of the elective blocks offered at Jackson. Leidloff also noted that for students, especially those with anxiety who find Jackson too much, that a very successful pilot is ongoing with Storefront and the plan is to expand the program to encompass Grade 9-12. The parent and her child were invited to a meeting inclusive education staff to discuss her concerns and try to determine solutions.
A parent also questioned the amount of education assistant time at Silver Creek Elementary, stating they thought the district wasn’t providing enough time. Kriger answered the question saying the Seamless Day pilot project has actually provided additional Early Childhood Educator time to the school. She added that, if she recalled correctly, there was a CEA position that couldn’t be filled so learning supports were added with additional learning resource teacher time. Also, retired principal Denise Moore is also working Wednesdays and Fridays to help develop a school-wide positive support plan.
North Okanagan Teachers’ Association president Graham Gomme questioned whether there was an additional Speech Learning Pathologist in the proposed budget. Culler answered that the district advertised for an SLP last year and couldn’t fill it. This year the proposed budget is that current levels of SLP service be maintained. He also commented that in September NOSTA would like to have a delegation to address class size and composition, as they felt targets are not always being met after September 30. VanBuskirk noted the request and suggested he fill out the delegation request form.
- Mon. May 22 – Victoria Day (stat holiday)
- Wed. May 31 – Indigenous Graduation Ceremony 6:15 p.m. Splatsin Community Centre
- Fri. June 2 – Eagle River Secondary graduation at 7 p.m. at ERS gym
- Tues. June 6 – District Track Meet at Little Mountain Park
- Fri. June 9 – A.L. Fortune graduation at 7 p.m. at ALF gym
- Thurs. June 15 – Pleasant Valley Secondary graduation at 7 p.m. at NorVal Arena
- Thurs. June 15 – Storefront graduation at the DESC
- Tues. June 20 – Board Meeting at the DESC at 6 p.m.
- Wed. June 28 – Outdoor graduation ceremony at Salmon Arm Secondary 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Thurs. June 29 – Last day before summer break
- Fri. June 30 – Non-instructional administrative day